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CASSANDRA. Friedrich Schiller

CASSANDRA

   Mirth the halls of Troy was filling,
    Ere its lofty ramparts fell;
   From the golden lute so thrilling
    Hymns of joy were heard to swell. 
   From the sad and tearful slaughter
    All had laid their arms aside,
   For Pelides Priam’s daughter
    Claimed then as his own fair bride.

   Laurel branches with them bearing,
    Troop on troop in bright array
   To the temples were repairing,
    Owning Thymbrius’ sovereign sway. 
   Through the streets, with frantic measure,
    Danced the bacchanal mad round,
   And, amid the radiant pleasure,
    Only one sad breast was found.

   Joyless in the midst of gladness,
    None to heed her, none to love,
   Roamed Cassandra, plunged in sadness,
    To Apollo’s laurel grove. 
   To its dark and deep recesses
    Swift the sorrowing priestess hied,
   And from off her flowing tresses
    Tore the sacred band, and cried: 

   “All around with joy is beaming,
    Ev’ry heart is happy now,
   And my sire is fondly dreaming,
    Wreathed with flowers my sister’s brow
   I alone am doomed to wailing,
    That sweet vision flies from me;
   In my mind, these walls assailing,
    Fierce destruction I can see.”

   “Though a torch I see all-glowing,
    Yet ’tis not in Hymen’s hand;
   Smoke across the skies is blowing,
    Yet ’tis from no votive brand. 
   Yonder see I feasts entrancing,
    But in my prophetic soul,
   Hear I now the God advancing,
    Who will steep in tears the bowl!”

   “And they blame my lamentation,
    And they laugh my grief to scorn;
   To the haunts of desolation
    I must bear my woes forlorn. 
   All who happy are, now shun me,
    And my tears with laughter see;
   Heavy lies thy hand upon me,
    Cruel Pythian deity!”

   “Thy divine decrees foretelling,
    Wherefore hast thou thrown me here,
   Where the ever-blind are dwelling,
    With a mind, alas, too clear? 
   Wherefore hast thou power thus given,
    What must needs occur to know? 
   Wrought must be the will of Heaven-
    Onward come the hour of woe!”

   “When impending fate strikes terror,
    Why remove the covering? 
   Life we have alone in error,
    Knowledge with it death must bring. 
   Take away this prescience tearful,
    Take this sight of woe from me;
   Of thy truths, alas! how fearful
    ’Tis the mouthpiece frail to be!”

   “Veil my mind once more in slumbers
    Let me heedlessly rejoice;
   Never have I sung glad numbers
    Since I’ve been thy chosen voice. 
   Knowledge of the future giving,
    Thou hast stolen the present day,
   Stolen the moment’s joyous living,-
    Take thy false gift, then, away!”

   “Ne’er with bridal train around me,
    Have I wreathed my radiant brow,
   Since to serve thy fane I bound me-
    Bound me with a solemn vow. 
   Evermore in grief I languish-
    All my youth in tears was spent;
   And with thoughts of bitter anguish
    My too-feeling heart is rent.”

   “Joyously my friends are playing,
    All around are blest and glad,
   In the paths of pleasure straying,-
    My poor heart alone is sad. 
   Spring in vain unfolds each treasure,
    Filling all the earth with bliss;
   Who in life can e’er take pleasure,
    When is seen its dark abyss?”

   “With her heart in vision burning,
    Truly blest is Polyxene,
   As a bride to clasp him yearning. 
    Him, the noblest, best Hellene
   And her breast with rapture swelling,
    All its bliss can scarcely know;
   E’en the Gods in heavenly dwelling
    Envying not, when dreaming so.”

   “He to whom my heart is plighted
    Stood before my ravished eye,
   And his look, by passion lighted,
    Toward me turned imploringly. 
   With the loved one, oh, how gladly
    Homeward would I take my flight
   But a Stygian shadow sadly
    Steps between us every night.”

   “Cruel Proserpine is sending
    All her spectres pale to me;
   Ever on my steps attending
    Those dread shadowy forms I see. 
   Though I seek, in mirth and laughter
    Refuge from that ghastly train,
   Still I see them hastening after,-
    Ne’er shall I know joy again.”

   “And I see the death-steel glancing,
    And the eye of murder glare;
   On, with hasty strides advancing,
    Terror haunts me everywhere. 
   Vain I seek alleviation;-
    Knowing, seeing, suffering all,
   I must wait the consummation,
    In a foreign land must fall.”

   While her solemn words are ringing,
    Hark! a dull and wailing tone
   From the temple’s gate upspringing,-
    Dead lies Thetis’ mighty son! 
   Eris shakes her snake-locks hated,
    Swiftly flies each deity,
   And o’er Ilion’s walls ill-fated
    Thunder-clouds loom heavily!


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